CALLS for the Chartist Mural to be saved ended in vain yesterday as Newport council unexpectedly destroyed the artwork two days before a demonstration in its support.

Residents gathered in anger as workers started to remove the mural amid chants of “vandals” from protesters.

A few of those gathered managed to get through the gates surrounding the artwork appealing to workers to stop, while some blocked a digger from getting to the site.

But the demolition continued and people were seen walking around the city centre with chunks of the mural after a police community support officer began handing out mementoes.

Yesterday Newport council said it had to take “immediate action” and take precautions over safety ahead of the demolition of the Capitol car park.

Stephanie Roberts was one of the first people on the scene after a post about the demolition was put on social media site Facebook.

She went straight to the mural begging workers to “think about what you are doing”.

She said: “This is about the people – this isn’t acceptable.

“They did not even invite people down here to say goodbye.

“This is sneaking, conniving and manipulating.”

Protesters said it was the first they had heard about the demolition and reckoned it had been done knowing that a demonstration was due to take place over the mural on Saturday.

Pippa Bartolotti, Newport-based Welsh Green party leader, said she was “shaking with disgust”. She herself had pushed through barriers and past police and called for workmen to stop.

Mum-of-four Nicola Berry, 36, who has a relative who is depicted on the mural, said: “It is awful.

“I was going to bring my son here when he was older and teach him about the history of Newport.”

A Newport council spokeswoman said: “The mural is a modern-day depiction of an historical event that happened in Newport and has served to remind us of Newport’s past, but we must now focus on Newport’s future.

“The current Chartist mural is in a very precarious position, as it is attached to the wall of the multi-storey car park which is extremely unsafe.

“The council has had to take immediate action with regards to pre-demolition preparations and safety precautions.”

The authority has committed itself to commissioning an alternative solution to commemorating the Chartist movement, and wants it to be in a more accessible location.

Demolition work in John Frost Square is due to start later this month.

The demolition comes after Cadw decided not to list the mural and Newport council said it might not survive a move.

Newport council decided in March 2012 to replace the Chartist mural following demolition as part of the Friars Walk development.